Gambian-born London-based business guru and renowned motivational speaker René Carayol was the host of Saint International's Colour Me High Fashion, last Wednesday at Devonshire, Devon House. Ahead of his hosting duties, SO sat down at the Spanish Court Hotel with the thought-provoking speaker — who has worked with Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan, Colin Powell, and Richard Branson, and conglomerates such as Pepsi, Marks & Spencer, the Inland Revenue and LIME — to find out what's next.
What are your earliest memories of Kingston?
It is a place that has a real identity. I believe Jamaica is the only island with a true, tangible, demonstrable identity. Kingston reminded me of home, back in Gambia, where I was born. The infrastructure, legal and educational systems are similar to those of other former British colonies such as Zimbabwe, Gambia, Kenya and Dominica.
What do you miss when you are not in Kingston?
The pace, energy and drive I've experienced in Kingston has led me to declare it the entrepreneurial heart of the Caribbean. In Kingston people walk faster, they talk faster and they do things quicker. If Kingston could harness its energy, drive, pace, dreams and work ethic positively, it would be a fabulous city.
What would you do if you were mayor of Kingston for a day?
Never underestimate what people can achieve when they receive support. I would make every aspect of Kingston a little more supportive and positive. Focus on what Kingstonians can do and not what they can't do. Highlight what is right in Kingston, and it will help with what is wrong. Accentuate the positive and give the people a sense of pride and belonging. If I can build their self-esteem, there are no boundaries as to what they can achieve.
What was your most memorable meal in Kingston?
I had a fantastic meal at Majestic Sushi and Grill. It was on par with any other Japanese meal I've had around the world.
What's your advice to a first-time visitor to Kingston?
Ensure you have a native of the city to show you around and be prepared to enjoy Kingston like nowhere else before. Be prepared to engage the people and participate in the activities taking place.
What steered you in the direction of your current career?
As with the best strategies in life, everything is by accident. However, when the doors of opportunity open, never be afraid to walk through. I've always been my biggest supporter and as such I made the most of all the opportunities I was given.
What does your job entail?
I mentor and develop business leaders while simultaneously growing businesses. I'm a professor at Cass Business School in London, I chair a few boards, I've written a few books, host television and radio shows and I travel the world, which means I'm always on an aeroplane. I deliver between 80 and 100 talks per year, covering leadership, culture and success. It was a blessing to find LIME as a client, working with them for the last three years, and reigniting my love affair with the Caribbean and especially Jamaica.
How did LIME become one of your clients?
A friend of mine, David Shaw, who is the Caribbean CEO for LIME, telephoned me to tell me that he was considering that position and wanted my opinion. The rest is history.
In your estimation, what is the recipe for success?
Simple: never give up. Be your biggest supporter at all times. Growing up in the UK as the son of immigrants, my family had nothing going to there. Therefore, I had a hunger for success. I was born hungry for success, and when I saw the tremendous sacrifices my parents made for my development, there was no way I was going to disappoint them or myself. I've tasted failure — we all have and we all will — but it is what you learn from it that will result in your development. Being the best I could be was second nature.
What is the last movie you saw that had a profound impact on you?
Fire In Babylon. It's not about the cricket. It's about life, pride, and success. During the 70s and 80s, when as a black child in London struggling for identity and success, there emerged a black cricket team — Vivian Richards, Michael Holding, Desmond Haynes and Clive Lloyd — that was invincible at the time. We forgot we were African, West Indian, or English. For that special moment we were all Blacks and they gave us something to believe in.
What's the last bit of music that stirred your soul?
I love reggae music. I grew up listening to reggae music and being inspired by the likes of Bob Marley.
What was your last bit of retail therapy?
Whenever I'm not in the best of moods, my very, very expensive daughter likes to take me to Selfridges and we shop for jewellery. And no matter what happens, I always end up spending twice as much on her than I do on myself (laughs).
Which cologne are you currently splashing?
What is your preferred beverage?
I'm a rum collector, and the Caribbean is synonymous with rum. I love Jamaican rum.
How did you come to host Saint International's Colour Me High Fashion?
I met Deiwight Peters through working with LIME. Like myself, his job is to first spot talent and potential, and then develop that talent and potential. Our process of work and philosophies are similar. What he does in fashion, I do in business. He is a special man and I respect him very much.
Which designer will you be wearing for Colour Me High Fashion?
Chris Charles tailoring from Savile Row. You heard the name here first. (We actually heard the name first from Theresa Roberts). He is of Jamaican descent and makes the best bespoke suits you'll ever see. He makes everything I wear.
Share your favourite spots on the island.
Rick's Café in Negril, and May Pen, where my in-laws reside.
Share some places in your black book.
My favourite city in the world: Johannesburg, South Africa. I also love visiting Dakar, in Senegal; and of course Kingston, Jamaica.
What's your philosophy?
Treat others the way you would want to be treated.
What upsets you?
Rude and coarse behaviour.
Name the last book you read.
Race of a Lifetime: How Obama Won the White House by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann. I would encourage everyone in the Caribbean to read this book. It's the most inspiring book I've read in a while. All the things that everyone said was impossible, Obama did it.
What is your advice to young Jamaican business professionals?
Everybody who travels comes back a better person. You see the possibilities, you develop ideas, and you learn different perspectives about the same ideas. You travel, come back and you're energised. One problem I have noticed is that people tend to stay in the same place for too long.
Do you have any plans to have a seminar in Jamaica for young business professionals in the near future?
I'd be more than happy to have one soon. There was a time when I didn't quite believe in myself, but someone took the time to believe in me. I live to return the favour.
What's next for you?
I will be continuing my contribution to the development of the global business sectors. Currently, I'm the chief supporting officer for a project I have with my daughter Raisa. She is currently studying public relations at the London University of Arts. It is my role to help her become the absolute best in her field. Through coaching and providing opportunities for her to develop, she will be the best and become a role model for others.
Who would call you at 3:00 am?
I'm currently coaching several CEOs and any one of them will call me at any time, and I always answer.